Naval Aviation has a ways to go in terms of readiness, but the needle is moving in the right direction, according to leadership.
During the final panel discussion at the 61st Annual Tailhook Convention on Sept. 9, the Air Boss, Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, and Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, Commander, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), addressed an audience of Navy stakeholders and provided a candid assessment of the Naval Aviation Enterprise, acknowledging the enterprise-wide challenges of today and the ongoing efforts to address them.
“Readiness is our No. 1 priority,” Shoemaker said, noting that the demand for readiness is exceeding the enterprise’s resources to meet it.
“Meeting our commitments around the world is coming at the expense of our forces at home,” he said.
Shoemaker cited the ripple effects of sequestration on defense spending as a major hindrance on readiness but noted that future readiness will benefit from a recent request for additional fiscal 2017 appropriations and a budget increase of $1 billion for naval aviation readiness.
“Readiness needles, they’re moving slowly in the right direction,” he said. “Not as fast as I would like, but they are trending in the right direction.”
Among the major challenges that leaders and personnel at NAVAIR are focused on, Grosklags said, are current and future readiness, and an enterprise-wide redesign of the sustainment system that takes advantage of commercial tools and industry best practices.
He expressed some frustration over the slow progress on improving readiness. Naval aviation has quite a ways to go, he said.
“If you look at ready basic aircraft that we’ve had on the flight line, despite the efforts of hundreds, if not thousands of people,” he said. “We have approximately 30 more ready basic aircraft today than we had in September of 2015.”
But he said NAVAIR’s efforts to increase the capacity and capability of the enterprise’s fleet readiness centers (FRCs) means that in 2017, they will produce about 500 aircraft, nearly meeting the full requirement. The rates at which aircraft receive in-service repairs (ISR) have improved, too, thanks to investments in personnel and materiel.
“There are 81 fewer aircraft today that are in an ISR status than there were at the beginning of the calendar year,” he said. “That’s at the same time when the number of ISRs required-the amount of work required, has actually increased.”
He also cited the “additional funding coming into the pipeline” over the summer that will provide for additional tech reps and engineers on the flight line, updates to technical publications and new training equipment. The funding, he said, will have a tangible effect on the mission-capable rate. But it won’t happen overnight.
“That money will have real impact,” he said. “You’re not going to see it tomorrow, but you may see it next week.”